When it comes to catering to the star of a photo shoot, commercial photographer Jeff Ross said he has to handle the average dog and cat like a finicky famous person.
“We have the scene set up in advance,” Ross said. “We treat them like little celebrities. We keep their time on the set limited because their attention span is limited.”
Ross has been a commercial photographer for 26 years in the Reno area and added pet portraits to his repertoire about five years ago. He is the featured artist in a month-long exhibit at the Nevada Humane Society (NHS) called “Pawspective,” which runs for the month of July as part of Artown.
The pieces vary from straight portraits to creative and crazy scenes to surreal depictions of animals. Such images include a trio of trick-or-treating dogs, a cat wrangler, synchronized frog swimming, parrots on safari and a mariachi band of Chihuahuas. The images are both fun and for sale with a percentage of the proceeds benefitting the homeless pets in the NHS shelter.
Ross said the trick-or-treating dogs was a particularly interesting shoot. Each time the little girl in the photo opened the door to give them their treat, the well-trained canines did what they had been previously taught to do: go inside. Many takes were necessary to get the dogs in the correct position.
“(The dogs) probably put in a couple miles that day,” Ross said, describing the many times they walked through the door and back out again.
The exhibit also features a number of animals from the NHS shelter that need homes. These animals were surprisingly cooperative, Ross said, and took to direction well.
“Some of the shelter animals are pretty starved for attention so they respond to treats but also to a little bit of love, which really goes a long way with them,” he said.
Ross said he interviews pet owners and gets to know the animals before brainstorming ways to best capture their personalities. Everyday pet owners who want to do their own creative pet portraits need to have a lot of patience, Ross advised. He said it is a good idea to have only one person giving commands and to keep the picture-taking area fairly dark and quiet to keep the animal as calm as possible. He said he sometimes uses photo-manipulating computer software to make it seem as if the animal is doing something it can’t possibly do on its own.
“No animals are ever harmed in making images but they’re a lot of fun,” Ross said.
NHS is an official Artown participant and will celebrate the festival with several art-themed events throughout July. The work of other artists also will be on display at NHS in July. In addition to “Pawspective,” Ross’ ongoing exhibit “Tell Tail Portraits” depicts everyday pets in interesting situations that are humorous, clever and unforgettable.
Ross’ images have been in the Nevada Museum of Art, the Sierra Arts Gallery, Reno City Hall Gallery and two juried shows in San Francisco for the Advertising Photographers of America. Ross also teaches photography for the Nevada Museum of Art.
Locals can visit this art show every day in July at the Nevada Humane Society, located at 2825 Longley Lane in Reno. The art show will be available during regular adoption hours, Sunday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 856-2000.
For more about Ross, including information about hiring him to photograph a pet, visit www.jeffross.com.